Are you a cheese freak?

Is cheese an integral part of almost every component of your meals?

Could this be a meal at your house: cheese and crackers to munch on, mozzarella and tomato as an appetiser, quick cheese sandwich for lunch, cauliflower cheese, burgers with melted cheese, a chunk of cheese when you feel peckish? And then maybe cheesecake as your favourite dessert?

So, lets have a quick look at cheese and work out where cheese can fit into our healthy eating plan. Even if the above meal plan didn't sound like one you'd recognise, this information will be very useful for understanding cheese as a healthy option.

What kind of fat is in cheese?

The kind of fat in a particular cheese is dependent on the source of that cheese. Just as the quality of our milk is only as good as the cow it came from, the same rule goes for cheese.

Conventional cheese from non grass-fed cows is very high in omega 6 fats. We want to reduce the amount of omega 6's in our diet and consistently keep increasing the amount of omega 3s. Omega 6 fats can create inflammation in the body when eaten in excess or out of balance with omega 3's. We need much more omega 3 than omega 6.

Cheese that is made from the milk of grass-fed, free roaming cows (without antibiotics and growth hormones) is much higher in omega 3 fats and conjugated linoleic acid. CLA is an extremely healthy fat that has been found to be a potent cancer fighter. The most abundant source of natural CLA is the meat and dairy products from grass-fed animals. Research conducted since 1999 shows that grazing animals have from three to five times more CLA than animals fattened on grain and a high protein diet in a factory-farm setting. Simply switching from grain-fed to grass-fed products can greatly increase your intake of CLA.

In intensive farming, many cows are kept in "zero-grazing" systems. This means that they are kept indoors, where they can't follow their natural, very strong instinct to graze. Grass is brought to them, and they are also given a high-protein diet to increase their milk yield.

Is the fat in cheese of the good kind or bad kind?

Again, that greatly depends on the source of your cheese. Conventional, non-organic cheese can be quite high in bad fat and laden with antibiotics and hormones and really should not be included in our meal plans, whereas grass-fed, organic cheese can be a wonderful and tasty addition to your healthy meal plans.

Also remember that raw dairy is always a better option than pasteurized dairy. Raw milk may be extremely difficult to find in many stores but raw cheese can be found in good delicatessen and health food shops. If you have never had raw cheese before, you are going to be absolutely amazed by the delicious taste. Raw cheese is so much more flavourful than any conventional cheese and makes all the difference in the world, especially when used in recipes.

This link will provide you with reliable sources of raw dairy foods:

Certain cheeses should be avoided at all costs. Think orange cheese in plastic wrapping... I don't think so!

Is cheese a fat or a protein?

Whereas many nutrition plans count cheese as a protein, I prefer to count it as a fat option. That is because I do not feel that the protein content in cheese is high enough to qualify it as a full protein. With that being said, cheese does have a significant amount of protein, but for blood sugar balancing purposes, it just may not be enough for some.

Listen to your body, though. Some people can have 50g of cheddar cheese and a small apple as a snack and feel great, whereas others may have this same snack and feel lethargic and sleepy just 30 minutes later. Let your body tell you if this would be a healthy option for you as a protein source.

Also remember that portion control comes into effect with just about everything and 25 - 50g of cheese (25g is about the size of a domino) can go a really long way in any meal. Think of cheese as a condiment!

Here are some great ways to add cheese into your healthy weight management meal plans:

1. Sprinkle some shredded cheese on top of your morning vegetable omelette.

2. Combine cheese with an apple or pear and some raw nuts as a great 3pm pick-me-up.

3. Melt cheese over vegetables to get your whole family to eat their vegetables.

It only takes a small amount of cheese to add that extra flavour to most meals and recipes.

So you see, there is a healthy way to have your cheese and eat it too!

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Warwick, CV35 7DQ
Written by Andrea Bayles, DipNut, DipHerb, DipNat, MBANT, MURHP, MCNHC
Warwick, CV35 7DQ

Andrea Bayles is a fully qualified Nutritional Therapist and Herbalist. (DipNut, DipHerb,ND) She attended the College of Naturopathic Medicine in London for five years. She recently attended the Institute of Functional Medicine in London to further her training and she runs clinics in London, Solihull and Birmingham.

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